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Firm Update: Frischhertz & Impastato is open as we know your needs cannot be placed on hold!  To protect you during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we are offering video conferencing as well as telephone conferences.  Please contact our office today to discuss your options.

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Below Deck Mediterranean is a reality show mostly about life at sea for staff onboard a luxury ship. However, one episode’s conflict raised some interesting legal questions applicable to others who work at sea. The episode’s premise involved one crew member asking a roommate with a prescription for her Valium. The prescription drug is a controlled substance and long been popular on the black market.

Crew members must disclose prescription drug use

The law stipulates that all the crew’s prescription drugs must be disclosed ahead of time, so the captain has an accurate record if they need to declare them. The captain will also determine whether the potential crew member with a prescription can perform their work and protect guests in case of an emergency.

Out of an abundance of safety, prescription drugs also need to be administered by someone else, not self-administered by a crew member. Moreover, crew members do have confidentiality regarding what prescriptions they take. To minimize the chance of theft or abuse, an onboard doctor or crew person is in charge of a safe where all narcotics are stored. They must also update the register as needed.

Crew harasses individual

While it makes for good TV, the crewmember and roommate who fielded the request for a Valium harassed her about it. The other crew member was then further stigmatized because she had a “freak out,” and, eventually, the captain fired her for undisclosed prescription drug use.

A thorny issue at sea

The television show brings up a lot of interesting points about maritime law and prescription drug use as well as harassment in the workplace. In the real world not tied to reality television, there would likely be a lawsuit seeking damages. Employers or employees who face something similar may want to contact an attorney who handles maritime law and personal injury matters. They can provide guidance for best resolving the matter, either through a settlement or litigation.